I am in plain sight, but do you see me? I doubt it. Your eyes flick over me and quickly settle onto something else. Anything, really, other than me.
I know what I look like. It’s been a long time since I had a hot shower, but I’ve been able to keep myself clean enough. The trick is to go to public conveniences and wait long enough for there to be a pocket of time without anyone coming or going. It’s trickier than you think, as you don’t want to get caught for loitering. That results in questions being asked that I never thought I’d have to answer. It’s rare to find somewhere with warm water – it’s never hot – and if you find somewhere with tepid water and liquid soap it’s like winning the lottery. I’ve yet to find a place with all of that and paper towels, but I keep looking. I still have a stubborn streak of optimism, despite everything.
If anyone had told me that my life might come to this, constantly on the move, wearing out cheap, thinly soled shoes as I walk around the city streets, I would have laughed. But the human spirit is resilient. After the initial despair, I found a rhythm of sorts. It was like a game to work out where to go. Early on I realised that I couldn’t keep walking the same streets and alleys, though there was comfort in the familiarity of certain buildings and shops. Some people notice things. And there are some people that you really don’t want to be seeing you for what you are, someone vulnerable and dispensable. I’ve seen what happens to people like that, and it isn’t good.
I’ve begged for money. I can admit to that. It wasn’t easy, despite what you may think. I’d seen others with their signs telling their stories. But I couldn’t find the words to describe my situation. And I wasn’t musical enough to sing. Instead I created bracelets made of wildflowers and weeds. Pretty weeds that I’d find as I walked past people’s gardens. That helped me through the spring and summer, but isn’t as good in the colder months.
People like to tell me what I should do, even if I don’t ask them. Use the support services, they say. Get in contact with your family. Surely you have a mother? Like it’s that easy. As if I haven’t exhausted all the options to live a life that was different to this.
For now it’s enough to survive. I am here, doing my best to blend into the background. I might be invisible to you, but I exist.
Inspired by Discover Prompts – April writing prompts
[Photo: Macleay’s Swallowtail butterfly]